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Honolulu Blue Kool Aid 2021: Words get in the way

A season preview...poisonous odes to language, poetry, misunderstanding and booze...

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Content warnings: strong language, discussion of alcohol use, flippancy

I prefer not to write as much in present days, because I have become stricken with a great malaise. Such an illness might come with age, disease, cosmic space radiation melting our soft grey matter, but we all know the real reason is one’s soul is constantly in a state of flux; between loving the company of mankind and the state of throwing themselves behind closed doors for the rest of their life. I’ve swung towards the latter: I don’t know how to make my words work.

Being misunderstood is a primordial fear for all social creatures, and it becomes more pronounced the more layers of interaction you strip away. Throw out body cues. Remove the inflections of your voice. Stopper the natural back-and-forth of conversation that asks to clarify, question and correct. What you are left with is writing. Dead words on dead tablets.

We’ve set that up so well, haven’t we? We invented “death of the author.” Your intention no longer matters when you write; what matters is how others believe your intention to be. Clarification is not even asked for anymore, it is brutally shunned. Who cares what YOU think; what about ME? What about MY interpretation? Shouldn’t you be responding to that?

Every time I speak lately, I feel like I have to draw my words out longer. My paragraphs stretch, my syntax weirds and my grammatical flow snakes through the valley. English as a language is chaos, utter chaos. The greatest development to the language now comes here in, the 21st century, as it detaches itself from the last vestiges of its romanticism and its poetry and crashes headlong into savage, brutish business speak. “I just have to be on the hustle grind. I’ve got a 12:40. Can you action this email?”

And I hate it, I so very deeply hate it. I struggled for years to be able to even speak to others, and now as that difficulty grows again I wish nothing more than to return to my old ways. Something invades my thoughts and makes me unwilling to deal with words. I have some reasons for it - I wrote about my fears of a Micah Parsons world and people thought this was an invitation to discuss fucking nonsense like legalities and trial court with me or some bullshit - but like all good human things it is sheer irrationality that drives me.

Modern Americans don’t like irrationality. They see it as a weakness, and they do abhor our inherent human weakness. They’ve reinvented their own heroes to never show weakness, to never have a mistake, because we believe America does no wrongs. All those old world heroes who died from weakness and failure (Saul, David, the gods at Ragnarok, Beowulf sunk by dragon’s venom) shall be cast aside, their lessons not needed. This country and its great giant fucking comic book superheroes shall stand vigil, they shall use martial might to solve horribly complicated problems, and that will be Pax Americana until The End.

Pathetic. What good is it to speak my weakness, then, of words, to such a people? What am I doing right now?

The greatest hero, the one that breaks such a wretched zeitgeist, an American ever conceived was Bartleby, a common scrivener. His great deed: five words to which we could find real power.

Which leads us to what I am writing about: Dan Campbell. As everyone is aware, he is the head coach of the Detroit Lions. He also has the great ill penchant for having every word he speaks ripped apart and dissected. How did this happen?

I suppose one could start with kneecaps. That was the single word that captured American attention and derision. In a meaningless introductory press conference Campbell spoke less like an Lombardian NFL coach and more like a former player, which he is.

“So this team is going to be built on, we’re going to kick you in the teeth, right? And when you punch us back, we’re going to smile at you. And when you knock us down, we’re going to get up and on the way up, we’re going to bite a kneecap off. All right? And we’re going to stand up and it’s going to take two more shots to knock us down. And on the way up, we’re going to take your other kneecap and we’re going to get up and it’s going to take three shots to get us down. And when we do, we’re going to take another hunk out of you. Before long, we’re going to be the last one standing. That’s going to be the mentality.”

This quote was taken in its format from a different sporting news site than this one. If you want to make someone seem foolish, include all his interjections. It looks stupid in writing; yet this is how everyone talks without a speech written.

Not that it needed to be put into writing before the vultures flocked over the video of Campbell’s press conference. It was still berated and belittled; Campbell didn’t meet the qualifications of a NFL coach at the time, he didn’t look the part, he didn’t sound the part, where was the hotshot coordinator Detroit fans were promised?

Derision followed. The Lions were walking into another huge bungle again; this guy was probably going to run Oklahoma drills and bark at trees. Jemele Hill and the usual suspects concluded, without a second thought, that there must be racism involved to explain why the Lions didn’t hire Eric Bieniemy instead. Idiotic, stupid, owners asleep at the wheel, same old Lions.

For Campbell himself? “Doofus,” from one NFL show. Others questioned his leadership from the mere way he spoke, the way he dressed, the way he looked. He didn’t act like Bill Belichick, he didn’t sound like Bill Parcells, who is this rough beast? Is his hat on straight? What about his head?

Detroit Lions

Kneecaps still remain the joke, the easy quip when speaking of the Lions. After all, their coach wanted to bite kneecaps! Fucking hilarious, comedy died after this. But it wasn’t the only thing Campbell said or did that got him in trouble with the press. He wore a racing helmet, he cut Don Muhlbach on his birthday; he did the thing no American should do by putting himself down for it. He was called a Neanderthal, again, for saying he got fired up watching players fight in camp.

Dan Campbell is going to lose a lot of fucking football games. It is the inevitable draw of the matter. It is the reality of the roster he has to work with. He will lose a lot of fucking football games. If he doesn’t lose a lot of fucking football games he’s a hitherto unseen genius. He is probably not; he is human, and that is laudable. As a player and as an interim coach in Miami, Campbell has known what it’s like to lose, to get crushed and dismissed. There is no legend to be protected. There is no pedigree to live up to.

Every week, Campbell gets up to a lectern to speak; every day there is a crowd of vultures waiting to chew on every word, and those chewings are fed to a feedback loop in stereo. Without that pedigree, without that legend, he has no protection. He has no water to be carried. He is a mark to the writers. We’re here to talk about sports, man; we’ve got to feed the beast.

This will happen, and it will happen again and again. I don’t know if Campbell will be a great head coach. Nobody does. But in the interim, any failure will be seen as an illumination upon a lack of eloquence, a lack of qualification and pedigree. When Campbell loses, it will not be because he has a poor roster or game-time decisions; they will say it’s because he never sounded like a winner to begin with, so obviously he’s no winner now.

For now, in Detroit itself, Campbell’s reputation is better. He’s no savior yet, but he’s done more good than wrong for fans and the slavering press. Slowly, there has been an effect. In a recent column, writer Carlos Monarrez, who writes sometimes, was amazed that Campbell has spoken as much as he has.

“This was Dan Campbell? The same Dan Campbell I covered from 2006-08 when he played a tight-lipped tight end for the Lions? It was like pulling teeth to get anything out of Campbell in the locker room.”

Perhaps, back then, Campbell didn’t care to talk. Perhaps he too didn’t like his own words.

There is another piece of the human skeleton I wish to discuss now. Not kneecaps, but fingers.

I have not had much to drink in the past few years. I do not drink to “dull pain” as Lions fans joke/don’t quite joke about all too much. I drink as a social matter and many of our social events were severed for a short while. I have no problem with alcohol and probably never will, and I hope to drink once again. But it makes for quite an awkward situation when somewhere, this writing shall be crunched down to “Honolulu Blue Kool Aid recipe.”

I had stopped making the recipe for a couple years because I just couldn’t really justify rewriting the matter when Sundays were filled with a miserable idiot like Matt Patricia. Again, I don’t drink to dull the pain, so why should I concoct awful things? The weight has been lifted ever so slightly now, and I don’t feel as restricted. I’ve spent enough time in a blog post writing about a recipe before actually writing about the recipe, and everyone will agree that I am permitted about three paragraphs more to speak of poetry.

Well known in the west is the Latin phrase in vino veritas, “in wine, there is truth.” The ancients considered inebriation as a proper removal of inhibitors. It was good to consider something while drunk, and reconsider sober; likewise, whatever was considered sober, to reconsider drunk. For weal or woe, few hold their tongue so dearly when drinking. The idiom is carried across numerous languages in Europe.

The Japanese military leader Otomo no Tabito lived in the 7th and 8th centuries, during the Nara period. He was appointed to govern the southern island of Kyushu, and he crushed a rebellion of the native Hayato people. Like many Japanese nobles of Nara period, Tabito sought prestige through Chinese culture and education. So Tabito wrote poems, short ones known as tanka, in 5-7-5-7-7 syllabic units.

His son, Yakamochi, would be the better known poet, but Tabito himself was renown for one subject among others: drinking. 13 of his poems were in praise of sake. He scorned and derided the sober, calling them monkeys; because this was done in poetic form, it was considered witty.

But for Tabito, drinking was also the path to simplicity in thought:


Rather than
Speaking wise words,
Drinking wine,
Weeping drunkenly
That seems far better.

Today, scorn of alcohol is very common and very acceptable. Inebriation is not a logical pursuit. Indeed, it has brought plenty of disaster in its wake, and we examine with scientific lens constantly the horrors of addiction. These are all true. In our great modern world, we have no time for such flowery language when intoxication could create further harm. But spare a thought at least for those drunk poets of old. Nobody reads poetry anymore.

See this shit right here? What you just read? That’s what I’m talking about.

Honolulu Blue Kool Aid recipe, 2021 Edition

  • 2 oz white rum
  • 1 oz shochu or soju
  • 1 oz Hpnotiq
  • 1 oz blue curacao
  • 2 oz pineapple juice
  • 4 oz lemonade
  • Club soda optional
  • Ice optional
  • Shirt optional
  • Super-ego optional
  • Morality optional
  • WHY
  • WHY
  • “I think if all the position groups play well there’s no reason this team can’t win 9 games”

Upscale all ingredients for making a punch bowl.

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